Americans don’t hate Joe Biden; they just think he’s incompetent. With omicron, the highly contagious new COVID mutation barreling down on us, that’s not reassuring.
It is also not speculation; it’s the reading from the most recent Economist/YouGov poll, which found only 17% of the nation approves strongly of Biden’s performance even as 39% like him as a person.
Unhappily, nearly everything Joe Biden says and does only confirms growing doubts about his ability to intelligently lead this nation. His recent interaction with reporters during his holiday in Nantucket was not encouraging.
Asked about the ban on flights from eight African nations, Biden explained: “And we’re — I spent about a half hour this morning with my COVID team, led by Dr. Fauci. And so that was the decision we made.”
Not to nitpick, but a decision to halt flights from several nations seems consequential both diplomatically and in regards to health policy. Was half an hour sufficient to review all the options, the information we have about the new COVID strain, the logistical challenges involved and other issues? Has Biden simply handed off decision-making about national policy to Anthony Fauci?
He was asked, for instance, why he didn’t impose the restrictions to take effect immediately, as EU nations have done, rather than wait a few extra days. His answer? “Well, because that was the recommendation coming from my medical team.” Leaving us to wonder, what was the president’s view? Does he take any responsibility?
Asked if he was worried about the “significant” sell-off in stocks that greeted news of the new COVID outbreak, Biden said he wasn’t concerned at all. When a reporter asked, “Why not?” Biden answered, “Because why would it?”
Well, maybe because, Mr. President, American investors and savers just lost hundreds of billions of dollars. And, if the stock market takes a serious hit in coming days or weeks, your approval ratings will sink even deeper into the basement, along with consumer sentiment. That would not be good for the economy, or the country, or for you.
Biden cannot get out of his own way, especially on inflation, currently the nation’s top concern.
The day after Thanksgiving, with the nation up in arms over sky-high gasoline prices, Biden’s Interior Department released a report calling for oil and gas companies to pay more to drill on federal lands. To be clear — hiking fees on exploration companies would lead to less drilling and ultimately less oil and gas production. What a crazy thing to propose at this particular moment.
For a variety of reasons, including measures already taken by this White House, the U.S. is pumping only 11.5 million barrels of oil per day, down from nearly 13 million in 2019. That reduced output has helped give OPEC the upper hand, allowing them to push prices higher. We need more production, not less.
A new YahooNews/YouGov poll shows a large majority of Americans blame Biden for higher prices at the pump, and for inflation. They are not impressed that Biden’s solution to a 50% increase in the cost of gasoline has been to beg OPEC to increase output and to release 50 million barrels of oil from our strategic petroleum reserve.
They are surely not impressed that Jennifer Granholm, the secretary of Energy, seems to know little about our oil and gas industry. Asked by reporters how many barrels of oil is consumed each day in the United States – the obvious question to gauge the significance of the president tapping the SPR – she said she “didn’t have that number” in front of her.
It was a defining moment for the Biden Cabinet. Americans dismayed at this display of utter ignorance can console themselves that we have the first female secretary of energy. That makes everything better.
Biden has arguably flunked inflation. The White House has been totally wrong on the dimension and durability of the ongoing rise in prices. They continue to pursue massive federal spending, even though more stimulus will only add to the problem of too much money chasing too few goods. They were late to address the supply chain challenges and ineffective in their approach.
COVID is our second biggest worry but could soon dominate if omicron swarms our country just as vaccines lose their potency. Americans will look to Biden for guidance on the pandemic; what will they find?
They will find a president who has needlessly politicized the pandemic, falsely accusing GOP governors of “undermining” our progress even as their states perform as well or better than blue states. A president who blamed Donald Trump for the COVID deaths on his watch, but who has now presided over more fatalities, even with effective vaccines available, than did his predecessor.
They will find a White House in disarray, issuing contradictory messages about booster shots and breakthrough infections and unable to explain why, with so many Americans vaccinated or recovered from the virus, we are still at risk.
A White House, in addition, that issues possibly illegal vaccine mandates while allowing hundreds of thousands of unvaccinated people to enter our country illegally, many of whom bring the virus with them.
If omicron brings another surge in serious COVID infections, and we surely hope it does not, Joe Biden may soon face one of the biggest challenges of his career. For the sake of the country, we must hope he rises to the occasion.
The record is not promising.
Liz Peek is a former partner of major bracket Wall Street firm Wertheim & Company. Follow her on Twitter @lizpeek.